Palin fodder

Note: this post hasn’t gone through the Cheryl filter, or any other filter really, so it’s bound to be harsher than it would be when I’m not all riled up.

Do you remember where you were when you heard about McCain’s VP pick?

I don’t. I’ve got a terrible memory.

I do remember what I thought though: “… that brilliant, cynical bastard….” I’ve edited out the rest. This is a family web site after all. I’ve backed off the brilliant part since, but it still may work out for him. Yeah, I know the experience thing is a bit odd, considering it’s been the basis for his entire campaign, but I’m not sure it’s the mistake some think it is (or would like it to be). I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this post, jotting things down every now and again. I think it may be indicative of what McCain was going for with the pick: a whole lot of attention. What is it they say about exposure… there’s no such thing as bad exposure? Maybe that’s not always true in politics, but McCain is sure getting a lot of it – both good and bad. Perhaps that’s the real question I have about this choice. The pundit consensus seemed to be: McCain’s best shot at winning in this political climate was to make it a referendum on Obama. For better or worse, it ain’t just about Obama anymore (for the time being anyway).

I’ve gone over some of this ground in a comment to a previous post, but let me say it again – just to make sure you know where I stand if you’re not big on comments. You may not know it from my tone, but much of what I’ve read says Palin’s been a pretty good governor for Alaska. I can’t and don’t dispute that. Most of what I’ve read says she’s been a courageous opponent of corruption in Alaskan politics and government. Just in case you haven’t been reading the news for the last few years, politics in Alaska have been a dirty mess. She’s joined Democrats in her state legislature to pass ethics reforms, and gasp – went along with Democrats to raise taxes on oil companies.

And yet, it’s not enough for me. There are a bunch of reasons why I’m not voting for McCain, but this post isn’t about him.

So what do I have against his pick, besides being a Republican? Although some of the hot-button social issues are not critical to me, taken as a whole they’re not trivial either… and on that score Palin and I have nothing in common. I’ve discussed them in a previous post, but there’s one that bears repeating: she’s against gay rights. And by that I mean any, so far as I can tell. She says she has gay friends, and good for her. But she’s apparently against those friends enrolling their partners on their health plan. I guess friendship only goes so far. Environmental issues are also important to me, and there too we have nothing in common. This too was pointed out in a previous post, but I think it bears repeating: she doesn’t believe humans are responsible for global warming. From what I’ve read, she’ll deflect criticism on this issue by saying there’s not enough evidence. Sure. Maybe she really thinks Alaska is too damn cold, I don’t know.

And just because I feel like piling on (it doesn’t add much to this discussion, but it’s my blog and I’ll digress if I wanna):

  • I don’t believe we can drill our way to “energy independence.” And even if we could, what good does it do if we don’t have a habitable world to burn it in?
  • I wonder if affordable (truly) clean coal and fuel cells will ultimately be as elusive as cold fusion.
  • I don’t think we can build enough nuclear reactors or Yucca Mountains (let alone find enough politically feasable places to build them) in a hundred years… let alone ten… to make a meaningful dent in our energy production needs (re: more than a few percent).
  • I believe in things we can do now, and can be reasonably expected to improve upon greatly in the next ten years: wind, photovoltaics, concentrated solar thermal, tide, wave, and geothermal (this is not a comprehensive list).

So what’s left? Well for starters, this election may hinge on fiscal and foreign policy as much as anything, and here we’ve got very little to go on. I’ve heard she’s conservative when in comes to spending, and her remark about her experience as mayor and governor (versus being a community organizer) in her convention speech stung, but this is the one area where I think questions about her experience are valid. Small cities and states can have just as many problems as big states when it comes to balancing budgets. However, big or small – Alaska is relatively unique among states when it comes to revenue. If I’m not mistaken, per capita state revenue in Alaska is the envy of the U.S. Why? Oil money, and A LOT of it. If that’s true, I wonder if she’s had to make the same kinds of tough decisions balancing budgets that other governors have had to make… not that they’re all her’s to make. Legislatures have something to do with spending too… but she is the executive, and she is the one signing the bills. But whoever gets the credit, I imagine it’s a lot easier to be tough on spending and a stalwart for balanced budgets when you’re (relatively) flush with cash. Then there’s her position on Federal earmarks – like that bridge she was apparently for… before she was against it. I don’t think her experience is lacking because she managed a small state, but I do think it’s diminished by being a relatively cash rich state – something I submit is not her doing.

Then there’s foreign policy. Here she might be ok, but it’s a big question mark. I’ve heard some vague references to being cautious in our engagements overseas, but that leaves an awful lot of room for interpretation. And what about this bullshit about being commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard? While not strictly bullshit (she is) – governors don’t have the authority to deploy overseas, or in the case of the grave threat posed by Alaska’s vast border with Canada, over tundra. If I’m wrong, let me know, but I’d be very surprised. I don’t normally take bets, but I might make an exception in this case. If you think she can decide to lead a raft across the strait (a la Washington crossing the Delaware) and invade Russia then you really need to stop listening to conservative talk radio.

And then there’s her little scandal. I don’t think the issue with her ex-brother in law is a winning issue for the Dems. I’m no expert, but he sounds like a nut job. Arguing a position that tries to make a victim of an ass is a losing proposition.

Ah, but here’s the rub. I love to play devil’s advocate. Is it possible the trooper’s actions in this case are irrelevant to the scandal? Is it legitimate to ask if the ends justified the means (re: the effort to have him fired)?

Keep in mind: one of the problems I have with Bush is his abuse of power. Any whiff of abuse of the public’s trust is a little troubling to me, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of Bush’s transgressions. I suspect in most cases governors don’t routinely involve themselves in firing state troopers – regardless of why it needs to be done. The exception would be high profile cases, and I have to admit this one is pretty high profile. We can’t expect governors to have no opinion in matters of state business playing on the evening news.

But it’s not that simple. The guy is her ex-brother in law. I understand he took a taser to her nephew and threatened to put a bullet in her father. This was just about as personal as it gets. Someone should have taken a long, hard look at the guy, but that someone should have been anyone but her. She shouldn’t have had anything to do with it. She should have stayed away from the whole thing like it was the plague. Why? It’s her family isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to get involved, protect their family? I would. You would. It’s not her fault she has a personal stake – but that doesn’t make it right. By any professional standard it is an obvious conflict of interest, and anyone who ran a campaign based on ending corruption and cronyism should have known better. She should have known better in any case.

So is this a big deal? Is this an egregious abuse of power or just an example of being human? It probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but like many scandals it’s the cover-up that gives it legs. Now she’s agreed to cooperate with the investigation fully and openly, but only if it gets turned over to an independent panel set up by the state to investigate ethics violations. The interesting bit about the ethics panel is she gave it jurisdiction only by filing the ethics complaint – against herself. And then there’s the question of how “independent” this panel is – having been appointed by her.

In the end, I’m not really sure why I’ve gone on and on like this. I’m inclined to think the trooper thing is not a huge deal. It’s a little troubling, given my loathing of Bush, but there’s a pretty good explanation (even if it isn’t entirely legal). I think it’s the maneuvering that troubles me.

In any case, it drives me a little crazy to hear Republicans go on and on about their righteous standard bearers of integrity and reform. For sanity’s sake, I think I’m going to avoid the convention tonight. Maybe a little crazy is understating things. Bat-shit-bonkers has a nice ring to it.

Give the gift of words.